Sunday, 16 July 2017

Gainsborough Trinity 4-1 Lincoln City

Cat fact of the day. A cats heart beats at almost double the rate of a human heart (typically between 110 and 140 beats per minute)

My second Imps game of 17/18 and another nice local one, this time a trip to Gainsborough Trinity  to see the Holy Blues lock horns with the Imps in the Lincolnshire Senior Cup. Sadly it was a no show from my motley crew of cat lovers and what a game they missed!  To be fair Felice had got his excuse for missing this in early as he was away on holiday. However given the fact he was in the UK meant that he could still have driven to watch this fantastic cup tie.I mean who can turn down the chance to watch cup football. Rumor Felice was practicing his dance moves just like Boss Hog in this short video clip

I realise  that the Lincolnshire cup may not be the biggest prize going but for me its still a step up from a normal bog standard friendly and i always look forward to the draw, and then the matches themselves. The competition format has chopped and changed over the years but i think the current format  is the best it has been. The competition was first played way back in the 1881/82 season when Spilsby defeated Brigg Town  in the final. The Imps won the competition for the first time in 1886/87 with Trinity's maiden win coming in 1889-90. In total Lincoln have won the cup on 38 occasions with Trinity having lifted the cup on 10 occasions,the last being in the 2002/03 season. Whoever won this tie would go on to play host to Grantham Town in the semi final. On the other half of the draw, holders Lincoln United had lost at home to Boston in midweek meaning the Pilgrims would face either Grimsby or Scunthorpe in the other semi.
Chips, peas and sausage £3
Program £2.50 

If the phrase "Traditional non league club" were to appear in the dictionary then i am sure you would find a picture of Gainsborough Trinity, and i am not meaning to be disrespectful. Gainsborough is a smashing club and have a ground that oozes tradition. At a time when grounds are slowly starting to look the same with identikit kit stands etc the Northholme still retains its charm. The club have been playing football here since the 1884 (although the ground was used for cricket as far back as the 1850's)  and up until 1912 they were in the Football League, until they were replaced by of all teams, Lincoln City.

For much of the past 50 years or so Gainsborough have always been in the second tier of non league football. Never relegated nor promoted, and also for years both on posters advertising matches  and over the PA the phrase "On the Northholme today" has been used, never "at the Northolme". Alas though, the ground has been named after a sponsor and thus this charming quirk seems to have ended. Another tradition that Trinity are famous for is the supporters club known as the Blues club. The club is another throwback with its darts, dominos, and dance evenings (which Felice has been known to attend). but it does a decent pint and it's a decent place for pre/halftime and post game drinks. I have been in the club a few times before but this was the first time i had ever visited the best room. In it lies a small cabinet full of club memorabilia with one item really catching my eye. That being a player pass for a certain B Oxby.

Gainsborough has its knockers and there are parts of the town that have seen better days but it is a place that is changing and seems to be caught between its past and future unsure as to which it prefers. The Town has a hell of a lot of history about it, a small snippit of which I learnt today; the crown on the club badge is a nod to the fact that the town was firmly on the side of the Royalists in the English civil war. Furthermore the area around Lea Road station was the scene of a Civil war battle which saw the Royalists routed. Just up the road from the station is a memorial to this battle, and the ground in the area is reputed to contain numerous bodies from the battle.
New Trinity badge £3. Note the crown on the crest.
Last season Trinity left it late before securing their Northern Conference status for the 2017/18 season. It was only a few years ago that the club were one win away from promotion to the Conference premier however they lost at home in the playoff final and things have never been the same since. Although it would be great to see the Blues get that long awaited promotion the odds are stacked against them. To put it bluntly the conference north is in my view one of the toughest leagues in England.
There was a time not to long ago that the likes of Southport, Boston and to a lesser extent Gainsborough were considered big fish in the non league world. Now though with the likes of former league clubs Stockport, York, Darlington along with sides with big budgets such as FC United of Manchester and Salford City plus clubs with decent support bases like Telford, and Kiddeminster you can start to see the challenge that Trinity face to retain their step 2 status. Of course football is an unpredictable beast and as we saw with Lincoln last season a good management team can go someway to counteracting big budget sides.

On to the game. Before the game i was firmly of the belief that Trinity would turn the Imps over today and that is pretty much how it panned out. Lincoln's entire first team are currently over in Portugal for some warm weather training and a couple of friendlies v Benfica B and Millwall (who they beat 1-0 today) This means that the youth side would be sent over to contest this game.  Now i fully realise that Lincoln have some decent prospects coming through the system however there is quite a step up from competing against players who are in their own level of development and battle hardened conference north players who are looking to put on a show in front of their own fans. Last weekend a young Imps side had gone down 5-1 at Rossington Main who play their football 3 leagues below Gainsborough, so today was a real test for the young Imps. Trinity have had a steady start to pre season with two away wins at Winterton and Frickly respectively each by the scoreline of 1-0.
Todays teams.

Gainsborough were quick out of the blocks and had the Imps on the back foot for much of the first half. The Holy blues were ahead on 4 mins when Alex Simmons fresh from being released by Lincoln cut in between the two Lincoln centre backs and fired into the roof of the net. I must admit I feared  for the Imps going behind early. Trinity kept on creating but not taking chances and with Lincoln unable to get out of their own half for much of the first 45 it seemed a case of when not if Gainsborough would add a second. The only surprise was that it took till the 38th minute and when it did arrive it came via the penalty spot as Ash Worsfold dispatched the spot kick after Tom Davie was adjudged to have been fouled. It was a tough call but probably just about the right one from where i was stood.

The Imps may have been second best for the first half but they competed much better in the second. As the game went on they started to take the game to Trinity and manged to force a few corners and half chances. On 72 it looked like they had got back into the game as they made it 2-1 thanks to the best piece of football they put together all match. Ellis Chapman chased down a seemingly lost cause down the left then crossed the ball in low for Kyle Watkins to fire past Trinity Keeper Richard Walton, who by the way is on a season long loan from Lincoln.

However the Imps joy was short lived. For much of the match Michael Antkowiak had a fine game in the Lincoln goal thwarting Trinity on many occasions. However on 77 he misjudged a freekick from Simmons  wide on the right, dropping the ball under no pressure. Things like this are hard on keepers and its always tough to see young keepers make errors like this but overall i think he can look back on his work this afternoon with pride. Its all character building as they say.  Trinity grabbed the final goal with virtually the last kick of the game when sub Bradley wells rounded Antkowiak to make it 4-1 and give the scoreline a one sided look.
Place all Grimsby Town and Sheffield Wednesday shirts here. 

Although they bowed out the Lincs cup there were positives for the Imps to take from this. At one point in the second half Lincoln's team consisted of  6 sixteen year olds, 4 seventeen year olds and one 18 year old on the pitch and just about managed to hold their own. These youngsters wont get to test themselves against players of Gainsborough's quality in the youth league so for them the experience is invaluable.

As for the hosts they did what they had to do. Alex Simmons looked sharp and i for one hope he has a good season. He didn't get much game time at Lincoln but never let anybody down in the games that he did play. This game may not have been the toughest challenge Trinity have ever faced but as the old saying goes you can only beat whats in front of you and they did just that. Over the next few weeks the Holy Blues host Rotherham, Mansfield, and Doncaster so we may get a better indication of where they are after those matches.

So all in all a pleasant day out. I haven't been to Gainsborough since the Imps visit in the previous pre-season but hopefully it wont be a year till i return. Trinity is always a fun day out and they are very much a club that tries to do things the right way. I can only wish them well.

The next challenge for the Imps youth team is a friendly away at Skegness Town on Friday night. As Skegness have a newish ground it will be a new stadium for us to tick off. All plans rely on Felice being allowed out however so the trip is far from confirmed. If you are desperate to know if we will be there so you can pose for selfies and ask us questions about cats etc follow you me on twitter @ferretimp for all the lowdown on our potential adventures.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Lincoln United 0-4 Lincoln City

Cat fact of the day. Most female cats are right pawed while most male cats are left pawed.

The Lincoln derby is always one of the main high points of the pre season. I have long been of the view that this game should always be the first game that the Imps play and this game simply backed my view up as well over 1200 supporters made their way to Ashby Avenue to watch this celebration of Lincoln football.

Lincoln United was the first venue that i watched a non league football game at way back in 1998 where they took on Whitley Bay in what was then the Unibond League. I don't remember much about that night. All that i can remember was that the ground layout was pretty much the same as it is today and that it was bloody cold (which was the total opposite of the weather today)  I think United won that night as it was a time that the club were very much on the up but i can't be sure nor can i be arsed to look it up.

I almost didn't make this match at all. Unbeknownst to my good self till the evening before the game,  there was industrial action being undertaken by the staff on Northern trains (the train company that runs the service between Retford and Lincoln)  over the weekend. There was a replacement bus service was in operation which, although being a pain in the arse, would allow me to get there. Getting back would have involved getting the train to Doncaster, then the Doncaster to Retford train which was far too much messing around for myself but thankfully i grabbed a lift with a former work mate who helps out with stewarding duties at United. The staff at Northern rail were not the the only ones on strike today as there was a no show from Felice Del Colle of all people but more about that later.

Arriving quite early gave me chance to soak up the atmosphere and also appreciate the planning that United had put into this day. For those that dont know Lincoln United normally attract a crowd of between 80-150. It has been well documented the rise is interest in Lincoln City following last seasons title win with over 5,500 season tickets sold and with this in mind tickets were on sale in advance for this fixture. Ashby Avenue holds 2,200 and 1,200 tickets had already been sold before the day. Add into the mix that there was cricket match on the pitch next door and the residential area surrounding the stadium then you can see how this presented United with a huge logistical challenge that they not only met but excelled at.

The club were well prepared. The club house had been set up so that drinks were easily and quickly obtained  and another bar was also placed outside which on a hot sunny day was most welcome. Programmes were onsale as you approached the ground so nobody could complain on missing out on one. This may not have been a full United issue but many clubs dont issue at all for pre season games so another pat on the back to United for that.

Aside from being the Imps first game of 2017/18 it was also the first day in the Retford Imps Cataday crew part time twat league championship. Away from this game the Imps youth team took on Rossington Main. Mr Barry Oxby attended this game thus avoiding being given any PTTPs  Amer and Lee failed to attend either as did Felice as i believe he was spending all day looking at cat pictures on the internet and trying to count how many European cups/champions league titles Juventus are behind Inter.

It was well publicized in the media that the Imps were going to play 2 teams in this match.One in the first and one in the second and thats exactly what we got. This kind of practice is common in early pre season games and it gives all the players the chance to get minutes under their belts after over a week of training without a game. The Imps have (at the time of writing) only made 3 signings with the most eye catching being former Mansfield and Birmingham striker Matt Green, and it was Green who gave the Imps the lead when he headed home a cross from trialist Brandon Otterwill on 12 minutes. United had knocked the Imps out of the Lincolnshire cup last year but a repeat of that result was already looking very unlikely.

City doubled their lead on 15 minutes when Alex Woodyard, fresh from signing his new deal at City, sent in a cross to the back stick allowing Green to score his second and put the game beyond United.  The Imps got there 3rd on 22 minutes when trialist James Rowe fired in a low shot from just outside the box and it was beginning to look like city would be running up a cricket score. To United's credit they did buckle down and worked really hard to contain City without really looking likely to score themselves. It did feel like City could score whenever they wanted to. The Imps hit the woodwork, missed a few chances and found United keeper Jake Turner in fine form but generally looked very comfortable for all of the 1st half.

The second half followed the pattern of the first really with the Imps making (and missing) chances with United working their socks off to keep City honest. The Imps did add a 4th near the end through Nathan Arnold to round off the scoring and send the Imps fans in the crowd home happy.

Its hard to draw any conclusions from this from a City angle. From the trialist perspective i would have though that the Imps management team would need to see them up against a side a little higher up the footballing pyramid before they make a judgment on them especially the ones in defensive positions who had very little to do. Not of them made any huge blunders but likewise not will have cemented a deal on this display.

Over the next week both of these sides will be in action in the prestigious Lincolnshire County Cup. United host Boston while City travel to Gainsborough Trinity. Given that the Imps first team will be in Portugal the Lincoln team is expected to be made up of youth team players. This shouldn't deter Imps fans from making the short trip over though as its always a good away day and its a chance to see the Imps stars of the future.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Retford United 1-1 Worksop Town

Cat fact of the day. Abraham Lincoln kept four cats as pets in the White house.

Well its finally here. 4 weeks after my personal 2016/17 season ended in Cardiff with the Women's Champions League final, the 2017/18 season commenced with the Bassetlaw Derby as Retford United hosted Worksop Town.

Although its only been a few weeks i must confess that i have missed the pleasure of live football. There has been plenty going off in the sporting world in the meantime though. I thoroughly enjoyed a trip down to Lords this weekend just to watch Nottinghamshire win the Royal London one day cup thanks to a thrilling win over Surrey, and of course Baseball season is in full flow but you just can't beat watching random non league football games with your mates.

Football is a game of ups and downs and its fair to say that both clubs on display tonight have been experiencing the latter of the two emotions over the past few seasons. When i first got into this ground hopping lark Worksop were in the Conference north and knocking on the door of the playoffs to the Conference. Alas nowadays they are struggling to escape the clutches of the NCEL premier division despite being by far and away the biggest club in the league in terms of fan base and history. Unfortunately neither of these two factors win you football matches on their own.

Retford did escape the NCEL premier division last season but sadly at the wrong end as they suffered relegation after finishing rock bottom. There were few highlights for the Badgers last season but one of them was a fine win away at... Worksop Town. The lesson for all football fans from these two clubs is make sure you enjoy the good times because in this game (and sport in general)  they seldom last.

As this was the first game of the year for many Cannon Park was full of local footballing celebrities  who i haven't seen for a few months or so. Stars such as blogging legend Rob Waite, author of the marvelous 66 POW Blog was in attendance as was Ian Beech the brains behind the Retford United Supporters club; a man who has done more than anybody to keep the club together over the past few years in these tough times.

Although many of the great and good from Retford in attendance, there was one notable exception; the Godfather of Retford ground hopping and non league football, Mr Dave Wathall. The phrase legend is often bandied around way too much but it Dave's case it is truly deserved. The man has been a beacon of light to the hopping community over the years and is always ready to welcome hoppers from all over the country to  Cannon Park and share a tale or two with them about the game we all love. (As well as chatting about Spurs, Lincoln, NBA basketball or any of the other clubs he is supporting at the time) All joking aside a Retford  game isn't a Retford game without him and i look forward to catching up with the old boy at the Retford v Gainsborough game in a few weeks.

From legends to bellends and sadly it was a no show from Retford Imps' Lee Houseman, but otherwise the other Retford based Imps were all in attendance.

As with all pre season games you can never really take much from the results of them and at this level many players can turn out for 3 or 4 clubs over the course of the pre season. Quite often it feels like the players are assessing which club to play for instead of the clubs assessing the players. I must confess having not seen Retford (or Worksop) play in 2017 i didn't have a clue who any of the players were but there were a few good performances with the Retford goalkeeper probably being the pick of the bunch.

Retford took the lead with a goalmouth scramble on 25 minutes only to be pegged back some 9 minutes later thanks to a shot from close range that was deflected into the net. From then on Worksop had the better chances but a combination of poor finishing, bad decision making, and good goalkeeping kept the scores level.

All in all i think both sides will be happy with what they saw and the result. This early in pre season its mainly about fitness levels and on that score both sides looked in decent nick. Its impossible to use games like this to assess each side's chance of success for the upcoming season, but it looks like Retford  should have a much better time of it this time around. As for Worksop, they will again be the biggest club in the NCEL and have all the pressure that goes with that. If they can get their home form right then they could mount a challenge but the crowd will need to be patient. I have been at Worksop home games when things haven't been going well and the crowd tends to get on the players backs to early thus making it even harder for the Tigers to get results.

It was great to see the lads again with much of the conversation being centered around planning jolly boys trips for the coming season with the Imps. Oh and the cats. We mustn't forget about the kitties.

Admission £5
Programme 0